I first saw "Baraka" 10 years or so ago when it first appeared on DVD. Immediately I was intrigued and striken by the film's remarkable cinematography. Unlike other documentaries, which rely heavily on narration, "Baraka" uses its imagery to tell the story of your world, a world of contrasts. Now, the film has arrived on Blu-Ray Disc from MPI Home video and I was eager to re-visit the film.
For someone who has never seen "Baraka," it is not easy to describe what it is. It is a magnificent and quiet trip around the world, told in picture, impressions and music.
"Baraka" is a magical film that takes your breath away because of the magnificence it depicts. Unlike "Planet Earth," for example, this film moves slowly and highlights only a very few selected locations and events. Those are picked for best effect however and leave lasting impressions on the viewer's mind. Part documentary, part art, "Baraka" is probably best described as a 100 minute experience that visits stunning locations and captures them with breathtaking images. It is not a movie, and it is not a documentary in terms of practical education. However, it is highly educational in that it shows us some of the most beautifully enchanting places on Earth. Over a 13 month period, the filmmakers of "Baraka" have visited 24 countries and hand picked locations with a personality. Then they set about to capture their often majestic magic on film, to show the world, how unique and poetic these locations are. These images are then combined with a phenomenal musical score that emphasizes the pictures and makes the film a truly unique, and peacefully mesmerizing experience.
The film takes you deep into the jungle of Borneo, to the streets of Kalkutta, over the burning oil fields in Kuwait, and into the Peruvian jungle, the Himalayas, the desert of Australia, Egypt's great pyramid, Persian ruins, and right into the busy heart of Hong Kong. It captures the pulse of each of these locations and holds on to it in visually striking images, before inviting the viewer over into yet another world. Snow capped mountains, praying Buddhist priests, and gigantic production facilities where people flock like chicken, create contrasts that are stimulating and very poetic.
"Baraka" has been shot entirely on 70 mm film for the best possible image quality. The high definition transfer comes straight from the film's 5 perforation intermediate, scanned in 8k resolution and down-converted to 1080p. I was a little surprised to see that there is some amount of grain visible in the picture, which is unusual for 70mm elements that are typically used for the very purpose to minimize grain. At the same time, it gives the transfer a very film-like look and the transfer's incredible level of detail will simply blow you away. With razor sharp edges and a definition that shows even the most minute details in the image, the image is sure to impress. Add to it the incredibly rich colors and you will stare at the screen in sheer awe more than once. The deep black levels help to create a rich contrast that gives the image incredible visual depth and when you're overlooking the Grand Canyon, you may feel as if you're going to fall any second – that's how real the picture looks.
This high definition release from MPI Home Video boasts a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track, as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The music of the film is noteworthy for its focus and ability not to distract from the pictures you're watching while always setting the right mood. Having the wonderful score presented her in its 96kHz/24bit glory is another reason that makes "Baraka" so remarkable. The track makes good use of the entire audio spectrum, including a surprisingly strong bass extension. The surrounds are included in the mix of the soundtrack to create a truly engulfing surround experience throughout the 97-minute film. Perfectly timing some of the music with the images, and masterfully combining ethnical and musical elements from the parts of the world we see at any one time, the soundtrack is a monumental piece of music that thematically travels around the world, just as the film does.
"Baraka" also contains a short documentary with interviews by the filmmakers that helps understand their intention a little better. They explain what they tried to achieve and how they ultimately went about achieving it. From that perspective, I would almost recommend watching this short featurette before the actual feature presentation. It will help you wrap your brain around the film's general idea much better.
I also think it is worth mentioning that the release uses an environmentally friendly cardboard packaging. There are no plastic pieces at all and the entire case is made of folded cardboard stock to give it the required sturdiness. I wish more publishers would go that route, to be honest, reducing the plastic waste as well as the waste and pollution generated by plastic factories.
"Baraka" is a magnificent journey without any words. Let the music and the images envelop your senses and simply sit back to enjoy the experience. It is hard to describe the serenity and peacefulness of this film, and it really has to be seen to be understood.
Make sure to check this disc out some time. It is very different from anything I have seen in a long time and this high definition presentation is a magnificent reminder what your equipment is capable of.